Gear Fit smartwatch highlights Samsung's woeful ignorance of user interface design

The Samsung Gear Fit smartwatch shows just how little Samsung cares about a compelling user experience.

It's hardly controversial to claim that Samsung's foray into the smartwatch market was influenced by all of the rumors surrounding Apple's iWatch project. That's all well and good, but it's clear that Samsung is more concerned with besting Apple than it is with actually providing a smartwatch that people want to use. The Galaxy Gear was voted by many as the worst tech product of 2013, and the recently announced Samsung Gear Fit hasn't exactly turned things around for Samsung wearables.

The USA Today review, for example, reads:

I had higher hopes for Samsung's Gear Fit activity tracker watch that I've been wearing for almost two weeks. In part, I was seduced by its fashionable good looks and the promise of a device that could do more than count my steps or read my heart rate — but not too much more. Alas it comes up a step or two short, even as I think a product like this could have a very hearty future.

Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal was similarly unimpressed, as was Re/Code's Lauren Goode.

Particularly damning is that one need not even use a Samsung Gear Fit to realize that Samsung paid little to no attention to user interface design in bringing the product to market. If you look at the screenshots listed here, you can see that one can only discern information from the display while extending one's arm completely straight. When, in the history of time (no pun intended), has anyone ever checked their watch by holding their arm out in front of their face like in the photo below?

What's more, doing so quickly becomes awkward and uncomfortable. Try it out yourself and you'll quickly see how awkward it is. It's absolutely bizarre that nobody at Samsung, throughout the entire development process, saw that this might raise some serious usability issues that warranted immediate attention.

That being said, on Tuesday we saw word that Samsung is, in fact, planning to release a software update for the device to make information viewable in a portrait orientation. 

Phandroid reports:

We’re not sure if Samsung is planning on delivering this as a day one update once the Gear Fit launches with the rest of the family April 11th, but if it doesn’t then we imagine it wouldn’t be long. Just be sure to keep in mind the fact that it may or may not be ready by the time it ships this Friday whenever you’re deciding whether or not to buy it.

Nonetheless, the fact that the Gear Fit was unveiled without this functionality, and indeed may not even receive it when it launches, underscores Samsung's woeful ignorance of user interface design. It really seems that Samsung these days is overwhelmingly concerned with staying a step ahead of Apple, so much so that it's actually ignoring its own users in the process. Whereas Apple tends to release products that are completely polished from the get go, Samsung is more inclined to employ a "release quickly and fix later" strategy. For further proof, just take a look at some of the atrocious reviews of the fingerprint sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

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